2010… a basketball Odyssey

27 11 2008

Enough said...

Thanks Frank (of eTrueSports)…

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Euro-xodus?

24 07 2008

Greece, what a place to live!  Fine food, beautiful cities, amazing history…

The news that Josh Childress has signed with Olympiakos has to surprise many, but given the money that’s being thrown around in Europe, it was really only a matter of time.

Recently, more and more European players have elected to take bigger contracts in Europe than were being offered to them in the NBA.  This summer, talk was of Brandon Jennings bypassing college and heading to Europe.  His test scores meant that he was ineligible for many of the top hoop schools, and rather than take a chance on a lower tier school that could find a way to accept him, Jennings will head to Europe and play pro-ball for a year.

Childress beat him to the punch tho’, and this really signals a change in the status quo.  Not that the top line stars presence in the NBA will be threatened in the foreseeable future, but Josh Childress gave the Atlanta Hawks 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds a game last season, coming off the pine.

The Hawks apparently offered Childress a deal somewhere between $5.5-6 million a year, but exact details are unknown.  The Olympiakos three-year deal was worth about $20 million. Guaranteed money, and Childress gets to elect as to whether he wants to opt out of the contract after each year.  With the growing strength of the Euro versus the falling US dollar, that’s big dollars.  The Hawks can keep his NBA rights, and he remains a restricted free agent – if they do so… but that would mean they make a qualifying offer each year, and that’s going to count against their salary cap.

The fact that Europe now has the financial wherewithal to make offers like this gives mid-level players leverage that they previously did not have.

Currently within soccer and rugby, high level players declining with age sign mega-buck contracts outside of the mainstream markets.  Think David Beckham… within rugby union, recently former Australian captain George Gregan and compatriot Stephen Larkham headed to Japan to sign big contracts.  Eventually the same will happen in the NBA, with falling stars heading over to the European game.  One day, as Adrian Wojnarowski points out, we’ll even see a superstar heading there.

But today… it’s Josh Childress.





The future of fantasy sports?

15 07 2008

Most basketball fans keep a keen eye on the stats a player achieves. And if you can’t get a live game view via TV/internet, then following the live play-by-play calls are the next best thing. And in a strange segue, Fantasy basketball is more popular now than it’s ever been.

Combining these three things is a new online phenomenon – Court Rivals. The description at the site runs as:

Court Rivals is a new type of fantasy sport where YOU assume the role of the player in a simulated basketball league:

  • Train your player’s skills and improve his game
  • Join a team with friends or create your own team
  • Challenge other teams owned by real people like you around the world
  • Win individual awards or a championship banner

Interested, I thought I’d have a chat with the creator of the game, Kevin Kazimir…

WM: Firstly, hi Kevin, and thanks for taking the time for this interview.
Kevin Kazimir: Hey Don…

Now, for some questions…

In less than 10 words, explain what ‘Court Rivals’ is…
The next stage of evolution in fantasy sports

What brought about the creation of Court Rivals?
Actually my creating the game was not inspired by any existing sports multiplayer games in the market.. I got pretty involved with playing Tribal Wars while at work in between managing my fantasy sports teams, and I thought to myself “wouldn’t it be cool if this concept were applied to sports?” I just thought the idea of a persistent sports world where each person could represent one player would be an incredible idea. I wasn’t going to move forward with the idea, thinking that I was through with crafting web sites independently after I graduated college, but my fiance urged me to make the idea a reality. I think she underestimated my ability when it came to this stuff quite a bit.

It’s very addictive, and is growing quite fast. How many people currently play Court Rivals?
Currently we have roughly 5800 user accounts and 6000 players (users can purchase the ability to manage multiple players for a small fee). Right now we’re averaging roughly 80 new user registrations per day.

What are some of the advantages that Court Rivals has over some of the other sim sites?
I’d like to think the biggest advantage Court Rivals has is persistence and accessibility. Each new season is a partial rollback for our veteran players, so new players can jump right in at the start of a season and be fairly competitive. This makes the game incredibly friendly to new comers and allows people to get their friends involved faster. For example, I know one group of people who had a friend that JUST signed up in the second half of Season 2. Come Season 3, they’re hoping to add their friend to their existing team since he’ll be fairly competitive at that point. A lot of online browser based games make players that have been playing the longest “uncatchable” and have those players perpetually dominate the game. This isn’t the case with Court Rivals!
I also think that our other biggest strength is the fact that each player feels involved and no one’s role feels marginalized. Some other sports sim sites out there have players sign contracts to lock them down on teams they have no interest being on or have players “riding the bench” and not feeling involved. Court Rivals decrentalizes a lot of team management functions and places them in the hands of every player so one person doesn’t feel like a puppet who is being jerked around.
Finally, people tell me that they like the fact that I am INVOLVED in the game. The mod staff and I take a lot of time to answer to people’s questions and concerns on the forums, and I think that level of customer service goes a long way.

What are some issues with Court Rivals that you’d like to resolve?
Issues? What issues? (laughs)

In all honesty, I’d like to expand some simulation mechanics and reward teams that have stuck together more. I would also like to add a little bit of depth to the sim and have some sort of “matchup system” so that if you’ve done your homework on a player and know he’s a deadly accurate 3 point shooter, you can neutralize this somewhat with a player you have that’s a superior defender. My biggest focus right now is continuing to add options to the game to make it deeper and make players feel more involved WITHOUT making the game feel overly complex or inaccessible. The last thing I want someone who just signed up at Court Rivals to feel is a a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Where do you envisage Court Rivals being a year from now?
Hopefully the site is almost fully automated within a year and remains profitable. The big goal, naturally, is to expand the concept to other sports and to continue to develop the user base. I’d also expect that Court Rivals 365 days from now will have a ton of new features and gameplay elements. It should be a fairly exciting ride.

Some of the teams are VERY competitive, not just on the court, but off it too. Do you encourage the rivalries that grow?
I love seeing the teams go at it over the forums and think that it adds a lot of drama to the game. You’re already seeing some Yankees/Red Sox-esque rivalries develop which is awesome. But that’s the nature of sports! I usually have my hand in developing rivalries when the playoffs roll around and I get to decide who get seeded in what region. I always try to match up teams that have some history so that there is a little bit of excitement going into the games.

I’ve read that you’re a Nets fan. What do you think the Nets chances are of landing LeBron James?
I think the Nets have a fantastic shot at landing Lebron James. The Jay-Z/Lebron connection can’t be understated. Plus I think the appeal of playing in New York City and in a new arena may be too much for Lebron to pass up. Really, it’s all the Nets fan has to look forward to. Lawrence Frank is an AWFUL coach at developing younger players, so we’ll probably see a lot of the young talent ride the pine for the Nets while Eduardo Najera and Jarvis Hayes play 35 minutes per game. Come to think of it, I’m really not looking forward to the next two NBA seasons.

What about the Nets going to New York? How will that effect you?
Well now that I moved away from New Jersey, the move to New York won’t affect me too much. Still I’m sad to see the team go. Growing up in Jersey, there’s a lot of “Jersey pride” when it came to rooting for the New Jersey Devils and the Nets over teams like the New York Rangers or the New York Knicks. I feel like a lot of that will come to an end with my generation. At least the Jets and the Giants still play in New Jersey (although they have New York in their name!)

Ok, who’s your pick for the NBA 2008/09 Championship?
I’m going to be unimaginative and just say the Lakers. Kobe, Gasol, Odom, and Bynum for a full season will be tough to beat. I don’t see the Celtics repeating.

Now a more difficult question: what about the Court Rivals championship coming up end of this month? Who do you think will win?
So many teams have a legitimate shot that it’s hard to say. You have Manilla Gorilla, the White Wash Ten, the Speedsters, the Fighting Mongooses, the Rotoguru Gurupies, and the list goes on… You can’t make me pick just one because if my pick ends up being right, someone will say that I rigged it all! (laughs)

Thanks Kevin, I look forward to seeing how this all pans out… – and GO Achilles Jones!





Seeking redemption with a ball

5 07 2008

Redemption.
That’s the whole theme of the US Olympic basketball team, the entire program is called ‘Road to Redemption’. And after the debacle at the last Olympics, it will be every bit as arduous as it sounds.
Last time, the co-captains of the team were LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony. And as good as they are, as imperative to their NBA teams’ successes, they are not the guys to lead an Olympic squad. Who were the senior guys that those three had on their last team? Stephon Marbury and Allan Iverson. Both good players (well… at least Iverson is), but neither are exactly the types of guys you’d set as role models.

So despite Mike Krzyzewski not naming any captains for this team, it’s on Kobe. He’s the one for this Olympic undertaking.
He knows it, Coach K knows it, the team knows it.

The thing that surprises me is (as mentioned in a previous post) the selection of Tayshaun Prince over Tyson Chandler. It allows for a game plan for opponents, a weakness to be exploited – whereas if Chandler was included the current issue over a lack of bigs would be a moot point.
The recent injury to Dwight Howard (stress fracture of the sternum) only heightens the concern, and the naming of Chandler as first alternate doesn’t really alleviate the worry either.

In line with that, it has to be a little worrisome that Chris Kaman was named to the German team, paired with Dirk Nowitzki (the fact that Kaman’s eligible because his great-grandparents were German is an entirely different issue). Now armed with twin 7 footers, Germany have the length that will bother a lot of teams. Not that I’d select Kaman over Howard, but it all depends on how injured Howard is. The question over who’s better between Kaman and Chandler is a helluva lot closer.

The closer the Olympics get, the more interesting it becomes.
Bring it on already.





US Basketball… dreaming of Olympic gold

25 06 2008

The roster for the US basketball team for the Olympics was finalised with the addition of Tayshaun Prince. So the final roster for the Beijing Olympics will be:

  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Chris Bosh
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Dwight Howard
  • LeBron James
  • Jason Kidd
  • Chris Paul
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Michael Redd
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Deron Williams

Whilst this roster addresses the problems that the last Olympic team encountered – lack of perimeter shooting, the inclusion of Prince over Tyson Chandler means that there’s a decided dearth of big men in the team.
3.
That’s it.
Three.
This will mean that the US team will have a vulnerability against big, physical teams. If Howard, Bosh and Boozer get in foul trouble, then Team America could be in a world of hurt. Only taking one true center, and two big power forward? Umm… not overly bright.
Yes, Prince is a good perimeter defender who has length, but up ’til now Kobe Bryant’s played as the lock-down guy, so Prince is just gravy on that. The end result is that whilst having good flexibility, and generally being a more capable team – there is a frailty there that can be exploited… something that wasn’t necessary, had they included Chandler. Allowing in the very least for opponents to have a game plan – when they didn’t need to – just seems foolish.

This Olympic team will have some interesting story-lines too. Kobe Bryant will be searching for redemption in a gold medal post a stinging loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Kobe can reassert himself here, and take out some of the pain-of-defeat on the international courts. He’ll be looking at this as a way to build towards the next season, a season that the Lakers will start as one of the favoured teams.

Dwyane Wade has gone from being the Golden Child to a bit of an also-ran. From being THE guy in the 2006 Finals to being passed by Bryant (re-invented?), James, and Chris Paul… Wade will be trying to recreate the mystique that surrounded him on his successful NBA Finals only a few years ago. The Teflon Boy, to tin-man… in 2 mere seasons. Honestly? A little surprised at his selection for this squad – it will be interesting to see if he’s actually ready.

Carmelo Anthony takes more baggage to China than any other player. And none of it needs tags. Anthony will head to Beijing as the only *star* quality player in the team with a ‘For Sale’ sign in neon lights above him. Add to that the way he departed from the NBA Finals at the hands of Bryant’s Lakers… and ugh… that’s totally ignoring the legal issues that he has… the 2 game suspension placed on him by his team… and the oh-so-obvious difficulties he’s having with the Nuggets coach, George Karl.

Add to this the uncertainties that other players will have about their own circumstances – trades, hopes that their own franchises will be looking to build a better team around them, and all the vagaries that are associated with an off-season… well… suffice to say that this team will have other things on it’s mind other than Olympic basketball.

US basketball have done the right thing with having key guys surrounded by supporting role players. And maintaining a team situation with a long-term commitment. Anything less and this team wouldn’t be in with a shot, let alone being favourites.
But their mandate is clear: this year, you win.

All this makes for an interesting Olympics, the off-season’s certainly going to be busy.
Can the multitude of those seeking redemption through wearing their nation’s colours get the happy endings they so desire? I’m guessing that many will… but some won’t. The stories will deepen, that’s for sure.
An enthralling tournament… a veritable spectacle.
Looking forward to it.





Shaq puts the ‘C’ in rap…

24 06 2008

Stupidity. Comes in many forms, and often people who should know better get caught up in it.

Shaq should know better.

This was funny… but this was also stupid. I’m betting there were more than a few lagers consumed prior to this. And ripping on Ewing and Kareem?

Oh well… I guess there’s no telling him.





Candace Parker is hot

24 06 2008

A girl dunking a basketball is smokin’.  The very definition of awesome.

Girl got game.